Students at the College of Law who want experience in public interest law by accepting what are often unpaid or out-of-town internships are getting some needed support from Nebraska law firms.
Nearly $90,000 has been given to the University of Nebraska Foundation for a current fundraising initiative aimed at supporting the Nebraska Public Interest Law Fund, which is used by the College of Law to encourage students to pursue public service law internships.
With the education of future generations of lawyers in mind, the following organizations recently provided leadership gifts to the fellowship program: Fraser Stryker, PC, LLO, of Omaha; Koley Jessen of Omaha; Lamson Dugan and Murray of Omaha; and Rembolt Ludtke of Lincoln.
"These law firms have shown tremendous leadership by providing funding so Nebraska law students may get experience serving people who otherwise do not have access to legal services and to work for the public interest," said Susan Poser, dean of the College of Law. "The fellowship awards give students the opportunity to implement their professional responsibility by helping underserved communities while still in law school."
Law students who received a fellowship award this year are working in summer internships for a variety of public interest and public service organizations, including Legal Aid of Nebraska and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund of New York.
Through recent gifts to the Nebraska Public Interest Law Fund the college was able to double the amount of funding available to students over the last year and substantially increase the number of students who received fellowships.
"All lawyers have a professional obligation to do pro bono work," Poser said. "These public interest law fellowships provide help to students for basic food and housing needs over the summer so they can do this kind of work and begin to understand and experience the vast amount of unmet legal need in this state and in the country."
With a fellowship award, Daniel Gutman of Omaha is gaining experience this summer at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
"This fellowship means a great deal to me personally, as it literally made my summer experience a reality," Gutman said. "Thankfully, through the Nebraska Public Interest Law Fund and the generosity of its funders, I am clerking at one of the country's foremost civil rights organizations. I can already tell my time here will provide me with the hands-on legal training and professional connections I need to be an effective and strategic public interest attorney."
Gutman said he hopes to pursue a career as a public interest attorney after graduating from law school.
"I am specifically interested in challenging policies and practices that disproportionally affect the most vulnerable members of our society," he said.
Other firms and individuals interested in supporting the Nebraska Public Interest Law Fund in helping more students with an interest in public service should contact Molly Brummond at the College of Law at 402-472-8375.